With the news that star striker Javier Hernandez will be out with a mild concussion for at least two weeks, missing the Community Shield and possibly the opening game of the season, will one of our other strikers capitalize on the mini Mexican’s absence and give Fergie food for thought?
The most obvious player to partner the ever present Wayne Rooney upfront would be Dimitar Berbatov, with the Bulgarian having been Sir Alex’s preferred choice before Hernandez rose to prominence. Despite his goal and performance against the MLS All Stars, Berbatov hasn’t had the best pre-season and this may play on Fergie’s mind when selecting the starting eleven, with Berba missing chances and generally suffering from a lack of form and confidence.
However, Ferguson is a master of man management and may well see this as an opportunity to start Berba and show faith in the player, boosting his confidence at the same time. Berba is a quality striker and needs to start finding the back of the net again, and starting at Wembley would be a massive boost for the player, and could kick start his season like it did last year against Chelsea in the same tie should he get a goal or two.
A further option for Fergie would be to play Owen up top with Rooney, with the experienced player able to score in the big games and perform when it counts, like he did against Aston Villa in the Carling Cup final at Wembley in 2010. He also looked to be in good shape in the States – yet a role as a super sub is more likely with all United fans likely to recall his winning goal against City at Old Trafford two seasons ago.
The polar opposite of Owen’s experience would be the youth of someone like Macheda to start the game, which would be a massive opportunity for him should the chance arise but also a massive gamble on Sir Alex’s part. Big game experience is always a good thing, and such a showing of faith could encourage the young striker after a solid pre-season where he scored and looked sharp.
On a similar note, Welbeck and Diouf could also look to start the game, yet this seems unlikely, with a place on the bench the most likely option. Welbeck has shown flashes of quality during pre-season, and with Ferguson looking to keep both him and Diouf, at the club at least until January before considering potential loan deals, both will be keen to impress on the manager they are worth keeping.
Obviously the tactic of playing Rooney as a loan striker is not to be discounted, with then a five man midfield, where Ashley Young and Nani could provide width and attacking options from both flanks. Rooney has shown time and time again that he can lead the line by himself, and do a pretty good job to boot. Our number ten is growing and maturing with every season, and is in such good form in pre-season that it only bodes well for us this season.
Whichever option Fergie choses to go with, all our strikers will be looking to get off the mark and impress before the opening game of the season. The most likely option seems to be that of either Rooney as a loan striker of Berba partnering him up top. Should this be the case a week on Sunday, Berba must grasp the chance with both hands and perform in what is a big game, a criticism that is often levelled at him.
If he can it will really give Fergie something to think about upon Chicarito’s return from injury.